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Slim Randles

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Hunting for ‘The Ghost’ raccoon on Lewis Creek

“Moon’s getting big,” Dud said over coffee the other day.

Venison at any cost

In our part of the country, fall means deer hunting. Many of us will dress up like a pile of leaves, go out into very cold weather, and sit still until we freeze to death.

Living with re-GRETS

Windy found his audience out the side door of the sale barn, admiring a pen of cattle they had no intention of buying.

Sellin’ it

You have to hand it to Windy. When Alphonse “Windy” Wilson chooses to speak, it is a bombastic sampling of creativity.

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Autumn secrets

It takes us over slowly, this thing called autumn.

A blue ribbon moment at the fair

Mrs. Doc (we know she must have a first name, but keeps it a secret) joined the other ladies in the quilting tent at the state fair. It was so exciting. It was the first time she’d ever entered a quilt in the competition, and she was nervous.

Sowing seeds in the clouds

There are a few universal truths in our lives: the sun comes up in the east, it rains in Ketchikan and you can tell what the weather’s like by eavesdropping on the senior members of the world dilemma think tank … meeting daily at the Mule Barn coffee shop since God made dirt.

Good friends are hard to forget

Billy’s been a busy guy ever since he became the official town dog here.

Benefits of small town living

It was Thursday again. Mabel Adams asked at the desk to be sure.

Learning the hard way

It was lunchtime at the sale barn on the edge of town and the guys were milling around.

Radar blips

Doc was the first one in at the Mule Barn truck stop this morning, so he got to pick, and he chose the round table instead of the philosophy counter.

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Can’t argue with logic

Whenever Delbert McLain – our chamber of commerce here – gets a new idea, he generally shows up at the Mule Barn for coffee.

Survival of the fittest

Days like this, said Doc, a guy has to get out and get his yard work done early, before it gets too hot.

All ears

“Bert looks good this morning, Doc,” Dud said, quietly. Three stools down the counter, Bert smiled and said, “Yes, I certainly do!”

Going Fourth

Windy Wilson was on the prowl, this beautiful Independence Day morning, searching the neighborhood for something to do for others. He decided to let his weekly day helping others come on the Fourth this week, because he was feeling very American.

Dance your way through life

Mrs. Doc watched the dancers swirl around the cleared hardwood floor of the Legion hall, and smiled to see her husband, Doc, waltzing with Ardis Fisher.

Can I interest you in a snickerdoodle?

“You’re awfully quiet this morning, Steve,” Dud said to his buddy, the cowboy with the haystack mustache.

Must-have knick knacks

I’ve discovered the wonderful world of petty mail-order junk. I love it.

On nights like these

It is the heat that defines us this time of year.

Smart as a whip

“Amazing,” Dud said out at the corrals the other day.

Cow-a-dunga, dude!

I was studying my card when the guys walked in for coffee.

Searching for a good angle

Delbert’s at it again.

It’s fool hardy to get too big for your own britches

Doc saw Dewey the other day, supervising as Windy Wilson unloaded a dump truck of manure into a huge bin on a vacant lot.

Horse sense

Steve, the tall cowboy of us philosophy types, was riding a young horse through town the other day to get him used to “boogers.”

Finding inspiration

Dud looked at his Anita across the kitchen table and smiled at the wonderment of her. She didn’t take him for granted, and he didn’t take her for granted, either.

An American through and through

“So why do we salute the flag, kids?” said Abraham Lincoln Bahdziewicz.

A Windy day

Instead of the philosophy counter, we were at the righteous round table yesterday, because Herb got there first and he picked.

Spring breezes...and big bags of wind

“Whenever we get tired of breathing the same air,” Doc exclaimed to all of us sitting at the Mule Barn Truck Stop coffee counter, “along comes spring.”

It’s difficult being a fan of the gourds

“It’s all watermelon’s fault,” said Steve, shaking his head and sliding in to the philosophy counter.

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander

When Steve and Dud got up to go get a paper, it left just Doc and Bert sitting at the philosophy counter of the Mule Barn truck stop.

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Winter doldrums

It might have been the winter doldrums that did it. You can never be sure of these things.

A silent blessing

Somehow the snow is a little like Christmas. We can expect it. We can listen to the television weather and expect it. But still, when it comes it’s like a gift … a wonderful unwrapped gift, because it is the wrapping.

Time races on by

Mabel Adams was out the other day, with her new walker, the one with the basket on it, and a seat for sitting when she gets tired. It’s a purple kind of walker and she likes it. It has hand brakes, too, just like a bicycle.

False front

Doc was just getting up to leave the philosophy counter as Herb walked in. Herb was grinning and flexing muscles and had the look of eagles in his eyes. We stared.

Coffee clatter

It was the cold outside that bound us together better inside the Mule Barn truck stop.

For sissies, only

The whole thing began right after the first good snow this year.

Vocabulary enrichment

“I can’t stand winter,” said Herb Collins, who had dropped in at the Mule Barn’s philosophy counter for a quick cup. “There’s nothing to do.”

The gift that keeps on giving

Windy had sent off for a doo-dad for his small kitchen, and that’s why he checked the mailbox.

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Finding the perfect present

When it comes to romance, it’s hard to beat ol’ Dud.

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Santa has his ways

For years now, Herb Collins has been helping Santa by donning the red and the beard and the tassels and waving to passing cars on Christmas Eve out at the Old Fort Road crossing.

Dreams … big and small

There is a nighttime sweetness and hope that hovers over us this time of year here at home.

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Trail blazer

“Hey Doc,” said Herb, reading the latest copy of the Valley Weekly Miracle, “did you see all these specials they’re having in the city? Just for the Friday after Thanksgiving, too. You know, a guy could get a lot of Christmas shopping done then and save some money.”

Pass the biscuits, please

Steve will have Thanksgiving dinner over at Doc’s and Mrs. Doc’s this year, and any number of his friends are grateful for that. Steve is one heckuva cowboy and trainer of young colts, and a good friend to all, but he’d never make it as a dinner host.

Helping day... nothing like it

Windy looked out the window. A great day for helping.

A man’s gotta grow something

Dewey Decker, that accident-prone neighbor of ours, is the undisputed Pharoah of Fertilizer, the Monarch of Manure. He has turned a shovel-ready business into a going concern, with the help of the woman of his dreams, Emily.

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Halloween gauntlet for the bravest of the brave

To look at Herb Collins, you wouldn’t think he was like that. A nicer, kinder guy you never met. But for one evening each year … one little slice of time … he’s downright diabolical.

Bargain at just a buck?

It was a contemplative kind of morning, each member of the vaunted World Dilemma Think Tank seemed to be content to think silently for a change, just sipping on the coffee refills and waiting for Loretta to bring more.

It’s belly up time

We can blame it all on watermelon and pumpkin pie.

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One more cup

There’s something so satisfying about getting out of bed when the world is still dark and quiet and resting. Making the coffee gives us time to scratch and think.

Small miracles

When we first noticed the baby sparrow, here at the house, it saddened us all.

Nuts in the valley

In honor of his entirely fictional pet squirrel, Doc is calling the annual golf tournament the Chipper Invitational this year.

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You can feel it, yes, it’s almost here .........

It comes to us slowly and delicately, as all beautiful things should. It’s usually in the early morning.

Words of wisdom

Every hunter knows places to look for in the woods ... places where game is more likely to be approached or surprised. It’s that way with Windy Wilson, too. Windy is a hunter, but he just hunts audiences, and he does believe in the catch-and-release system.

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Waiting on Mother Nature

We walked quietly out and looked toward the west. It seems as though everyone did.

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Life of a Farmer

Harley pulled the tractor over to the ditch and cut the engine. He climbed down stiffly, walked to the water and soaked his head and shirt.

On the classy side

Dud Campbell, our resident would-be novelist, was busy on his day off. Anita watched him excitedly as he removed something from the box that had arrived.

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Retirement isn’t for sissies

Things were going kinda slow down at the Fly Tying Love Center and it bothered Marvin Pincus a lot.

Seeking glory

Like a doctor removing something important, Herb Collins gently peeled the wrapper back from the root ball and tenderly placed the baby tree in the hole. Then he stood and walked around it to see which way he should align it. Actually, looks pretty good just the way it is.

It’s your right to be wrong

Slim Randles

Windy Wilson was on the prowl, this beautiful Independence Day morning, searching the neighborhood for something to do for others.

Reminiscing about ‘them days’

On a good, warm Saturday morning you have your choice here in our valley: yard saling or livestock saling.

A burning desire to create a masterpiece

Dud sat at the computer and went over the several hundred pages of his novel for three straight days.

It’s got to be a fair fight

“What do you figure he’ll weigh now, Doc?” said Steve.

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“You seem kinda low this morning, Sweetie,” Marjorie said.

Drumming up business

Delbert’s at it again. You know Delbert McLain, our local chamber of commerce? He’s the guy who wants to bring lots of people here so the place isn’t quite as nice as it is now.

A little more polish needed

The focus group broke up after an hour-and-a-half with laughter and full tummies and hugs and handshakes. Dewey got his tie clip caught on Mrs. Doc’s sweater as she hugged him, but that was his only physical disaster and it was a minor one.

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Dry run

The problem Marvin Pincus had yesterday was simply time.

Mixed messages

Slim Randles

“How about a television ad,” Steve said during the manure-and-worm free lunch focus group, “that shows a cartoon of a worm with a happy smile on his face? You know, you can have him munching on manure, and then producing ….”

There is no statute of limitations on dreams

When old Ben died recently, the town was saddened, but probably not for the usual reasons.

The benefits of worms

Dewey and Emily were the first to finish their lunches, and the two sweethearts whispered together at the nearby coffee machine while the rest of the valley’s first focus group finished up.

Behind every good man is…

Emily led the group of five into the Mule Barn, through the coffee shop itself, and into what is known locally as “the banquet room” when it isn’t being used for storage.

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Some things better left unknown

Doc smiled and felt really good inside when he heard the familiar bird song.

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Painless therapy

As a prequel to the morning coffee inhalation down at the Mule Barn coffee shop, the members of the world dilemma think tank were found at the break of day, armed with fly rods, in their other guise as charter members of the Lewis Creek Piscatorial Pursuit Alliance.

Dental delight

Herb walked into O’Dontal Dental the other day, holding his hand against a swollen face. He hadn’t even made an appointment to see Perry first, and it became obvious why he hadn’t.

Simple pleasures

If there’s one thing you can honestly say about Delbert McLain, he’s as persistent as a winter cough.

Kinda nosy

The subject was love, of course, with Valentine’s Day upon us last week, and that’s why the grizzled and semi-grizzled members of the world dilemma think tank had settled upon it. Well, to be fair, they agreed to talk about someone else’s love life, naturally.

Makings of a connoisseur

Our resident cowboy, Steve, brought us the shocking news: cowpuncher Three-Chord Cortez, that bunkhouse balladeer, plans to study opera, in hopes an aria or three will make him even more attractive to girls during a serenade.

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Whenever my lack of mechanical prowess threatens to surface, I sure miss the solenoid.

New day dawns

High notes and low notes

Home Country

If you ask Dud Campbell, it’s all right to take a break from the arts now and then.


One thing about cold: it drives folks indoors.

Not a bad deal…at all

Day started slowly, after Steve and Snort were already through two big pastures and into the birth of the hills. Sure was pretty, too, he noticed.

No need for overkill

You have to look for the schism, Jasper said to himself out at the woodpile. He put another chunk of firewood up on the splitting block and took a look at the checking cracks that ran part way through the circles of age rings.

Ho! Ho! Ho!

Herb tried on the Santa suit this morning.

Dreaming of a …?

There is a secret selfish longing we all share this time of year.

Secret weapon

Janice Thomas hasn’t been the valley’s most innovative art teacher since the invention of dirt for nothing, you know.

No mutton on our table

“You see that sunset last night?” Steve said. “Now that was a honey.”

Someday I’ll know…

There were two little boys down at the Doughnut Hole Café the other day, standing outside, just waiting.

Pass the salt

It was a bright morning, and we had finished off the coffee and conversation at the Mule Barn truck stop, and we couldn’t think of anything much to do because we were still full from breakfast and it was too early for lunch, and the political problems and Hollywood gossip tanks had been thoroughly topped off.

Heads, I win ... tails, you lose

Home Country

Sure was good to see Jimmy back from the Middle East last week. He looks good in that uniform, too.

Home town shopping

Home Country

A building project (for those of us who are carpenterially challenged) can be a confusing nightmare of little whatchits we never learned the name of and have no idea how to use.

Work in progress

Home Country

Dud Campbell could feel it in the mornings … the cool breeze on the skin, the slight chill in the air, the messages nature sent to tell us autumn is here.

A dry bath in paradise

The evening was one of those that come back to you time after time, year after long year. It comes back and whispers of how good life can be when you’re well fed, enjoying life, and a good friend shares the front porch with you on a summer’s evening.

Epithets good for the soul

“Sanctimonious siphons, it’s hot!” said Dud, sitting at the philosophy counter and turning over his coffee cup for action with a single smooth move. Dud is a regular at the Mule Barn truck stop’s legendary world dilemma think tank.


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